Memorandum by the Secretary of State (Hull) Regarding a Conversation With the Japanese Ambassador (Saito), [Extracted], [WASHINGTON,] May 16, 1934.

In accordance with his personal request made of me prior to the middle of April for a confidential and purely informal conversation about affairs as they exist between his Government and the Government of the United States, I met the Japanese Ambassador at my apartments in the Carlton Hotel by appointment this morning.

I remarked that we were living in a highly civilized age, and that my country, for example, was exerting every effort as rapidly as possible to condemn, repudiate, and discard any and every practice, policy; or utterance that might be reasonably calculated to give just or reasonable grounds of complaint to any other people or country; that it was our attitude to condemn and abandon just as rapidly as possible a number of practices towards different Latin American countries which had given rise to friction, misunderstanding, and ill-will between our country and those affected; that human progress and civilization called for just such reforms and that this was the way my government and my people felt; and that we had no notion of turning back to those irritating and trouble-breeding methods which at times my government had applied to different countries in Latin America.

I commented further, at the same time emphasizing that I was only offering this comment in the form of an inquiry which at present did not call for an answer, on the grave crisis in almost every conceivable way through which the world was passing; and remarked that some months ago an American citizen stepped into an aeroplane and sailed away, but that inside of eight days after flying around the world and over Japan, the Ambassador's own country, this same American alighted back at the station in the United States from which he had started; that formerly, and until very recently, England, for example, h. d felt herself isolated and secure from any ordinary interference with the Channel between her and Western Europe, whereas it was now patent that a fleet of 2000 bombing planes, probably carrying explosives of infinitely more powerful force than any heretofore used, could with perfect ease and convenience fly from many of the capitals of Western Europe to London, blow that city off the map, and return within a few hours time to their base. I said that twenty years ago no human being with the wildest stretch of imagination could have visualized the smallest part of the amazing changes that had taken place in every part of the world during this period, and that only the Lord could begin to visualize the even more startling changes that might reasonably take place during the next twenty years; that amidst these amazing changes the more highly civilized nations had correspondingly greater responsibilities and duties, both from the standpoint of their own progress and well-being and that of the world, that could not be dodged or evaded; and that no notion need for a moment be entertained that my country, or his, or any other one country, no matter how highly civilized, could securely keep itself above the much lower level of world affairs, leaving them and all of the people of other countries to undergo a steady state of decline and even collapse, without that civilized nation itself being drawn down in the vortex.

I stated that this meant that since there were no two more highly civilized countries than Japan and the United States, their own self-preservation, as well as their world responsibility, called for the utmost breadth of view and the profoundest statesmanship that their biggest and ablest statesmen could offer; that, faced with these unprecedented problems and conditions, it was all-important that his statesmen and mine should be broad-gauged enough to understand each other's problems and conditions, as well as those of the world, and to have the disposition and the will to deal with them in such capable manner as would avoid misunderstanding or material differences and promote both national and world progress; and that in no other way could countries like Japan and the United States, which were at present the trustees of the greatest civilization in history, make such showing as would give them a creditable place in the future history of the world. I said that, of course, Great Britain and other countries had their wonderful civilization, which I was not even remotely minimizing, but that Great Britain in particular was at present, and would be perhaps for some time to come, deeply engrossed with the serious and dangerous political, economic, and peace problems in Western Europe.

I repeated from time to time that I was only commenting in a general and inquiring way, and the Ambassador indicated his agreement with my utterances without elaborating upon them. I further commented in the way of professed inquiry that in all of these circumstances-together with another important circumstance, which was that Japan with her 65 million people was surrounded by over a billion of the world's population which was living chiefly in a very primitive condition, and that the economic, social, and political rehabilitation of all these peoples involved vast needs of capital and of other phases of material cooperation, with the result that these needs were and would be so vast that no one country could supply them within a number of generations-I was wondering, therefore, as to just how rapidly Japan would deem it either necessary or wise to expand with her commerce. I left the implication broad enough to include political and other kinds of expansion. I then elaborated just a little further about the huge undertaking that would be involved, and said that in the meantime nobody could predict what would be happening to the world in an infinite number of ways which would call for the utmost cooperation on the part of civilized nations.


Source: U.S., Department of State, Publication 1983, Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-1941 (Washington, D.C.: U.S., Government Printing Office, 1943, pp. 218-221.

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